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Caregivers Win National Standard to Reduce Workplace Violence

In a letter to AFT President Randi Weingarten, OSHA’s David Michaels acknowledged the fact that violence is a daily threat for 15 million health professionals in the U.S.
 
Click here for press reporting on the assistant secretary’s response to the petition.
 
With the petition granted, OSHA is collecting information and took the first step in the rulemaking process with a January 10 public meeting attended by union members and safety advocates. Participants shared their experiences with workplace violence, discussed successful efforts to improve safety and made recommendations for moving forward. 
 
Members from AFT Connecticut-affiliated local unions were on hand to testify about their experiences. Danbury Hospital registered nurse Helene Andrews shared details of two incidents where she was attacked by patients, suffering injuries that were physical, emotional and psychological. 
 
“I still feel traumatized and vulnerable at times — feelings that never completely go away,” said Andrews (right), a member of our Danbury Nurses Unit 47. “Perhaps most frustrating is the fact that I believe my injuries were preventable. OSHA should create a strong national standard for preventing workplace violence for healthcare workers and social service workers,” she added.
 
Click here for Andrews’ story in her own words.
 
AFT Connecticut Executive Vice President John Brady also attended and participated in a discussion on the substance of a workplace violence prevention standard. He stressed the importance of effective mandatory training for nurses and healthcare staff on de-escalation and other protective techniques in handling violent confrontations — incidents he witnessed firsthand as a registered nurse in the emergency department at William Backus Hospital in Norwich. 
 
Andrews and Brady were among the activists from across the country who last summer participated in a series of actions culminating in the presentation of the petition to OSHA. Our national union in 2014 launched initial efforts when leaders reached out to key members of Congress seeking a federal study to expose the true scope of the problem. 
 
Click here for our previous report on members’ hospital and healthcare facility safety advocacy. 
 
The result was a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation which determined that OSHA’s voluntary guidelines for workplace violence prevention in healthcare were simply not enough to protect the workforce. Following the May, 2016 release of the study, a coalition of labor unions and the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) petitioned the agency to take greater steps.
 
“Workers should never face violence in the workplace, but for healthcare workers it’s a too-common reality,” Weingarten said at last summer’s petition announcement. “Our union and our rank-and-file activists have worked tirelessly for months raising these issues and now to craft this proposal. We hope to see it enacted without delay,” she added.
 
Click here for press reporting on the petition’s presentation.
 
According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare and social service workers are twice as likely to be assaulted at work as those in other occupations. Caregivers suffered nearly 75 percent of the injuries from workplace violence between 2011 and 2013 and injury rates have increased since 2005 by 110 percent in private hospitals alone.
 
In addition to accepting the petition to promulgate a workplace violence standard, OSHA has published a request for information in order to seek further public input. Healthcare professionals and advocates can provide their comments by April 6 and help shape a future safety standard intended to reduce exposure to workplace violence.
 
Click here to submit public comments online to OSHA.
 
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